In conversation with Dan Dick over his latest blog post, I asked whether bishops would support pastors who get serious about discipleship and chase off nominal members as a result. Here is part of his reply:
When I did the Vital Signs study ten-plus years ago, the majority of pastors who were serious about discipleship were viewed as problematic by their cabinets. In one setting, a woman pastor was told by her DS, “you’re making it impossible to appoint anyone here to follow you, and most other churches don’t want you as their pastor.” This in response to her successful efforts to equip laity for preaching, care-giving/healing ministries, and Biblical scholarship. Pastors (and laity) who actively promote and pursue discipleship simply don’t “fit” in The United Methodist system. So, do we change the system or settle for more of what we already have? Bishops? Any opinions?
No one ever accused Dan of being Little Mary Sunshine.
On the blog post, Katie Z writes about her efforts over four years to slowly lead and nurture the congregation she serves toward discipleship. Her comment underscores the slow and patient work that pastors like her do in thousands of unheralded corners of the connection.
In my more zealous moments, I identify with Dan’s impatience. It reminds me of John Wesley’s zeal for real Christianity.
In my work with an actual congregation, I am likely to fall back more on Katie’s hope and patience, counting of God to work on and in people. I do not want to hurt them, and I do not want them to throw rocks at me. (I am, you see, basically a coward.)
As a United Methodist, I hope Dan is wrong about our system. Or I hope it can change.